GarageBand ’09: Learn Like a Pro

GarageBand ’09, the updated version of Apple’s popular software used by millions to play and record music, now gives budding musicians a fun new way to learn to play piano and guitar.

Basic Lessons

Basic Lessons let you learn the fundamentals at your own pace with Apple instructors in beautiful HD video synchronized to animated instruments and notation. You’re able to practice either the piano or guitar, playing through nine different lessons which prepare you for playing an entire song. Speed and repetition can be controlled until you’ve perfected the stage.

When ready to play the entire song, GarageBand allows you to do so with the full backing band. The video shown in the Keynote presentation looked to be of excellent quality, though it was noted that the piano lessons appear somewhat easier to follow than the guitar counterparts.

Artist Lessons

Artist Lessons feature original artists showing how to play their hit songs with everything from finger positions and techniques to the story behind the song. Each artist explains in the video how the song was written and what inspired it. You’re able to choose from lessons by popular artists including:

  • Sara Bareilles
  • Colbie Caillat
  • John Fogerty
  • Ben Folds
  • Norah Jones
  • Sarah McLachlan
  • Fall Out Boy’s Patrick Stump
  • OneRepublic’s Ryan Tedder
  • Sting

I’m surprised that John Mayer wasn’t present in the list of artists taking part — he does usually seem to pop up wherever Apple has room for him. Artist Lessons will be sold separately at the new GarageBand Lesson Store for $4.99 a pop, available inside the GarageBand ’09 application.

You are able to fully control the mix and instrumentation, so it’s simple to break down a professional track into the various constituents and hear each part in isolation. As with Basic Lessons, speed can be controlled to make picking up the song easier. Previews of each artist can be found at the GarageBand site, and Apple noted that new artists will be added to the list shortly.

It will be interesting to see how this feature takes off; I think it’s a good concept, and if budding musicians don’t find the price to be a barrier I’d expect it to become very popular.

Other Features

Two other new features also grace GarageBand ’09. The first is a new guitar amp with stomp-box effects, allowing you to re-create classic guitar rigs. Sounds include Brit Pop, Honky Tonk, Lowdown Blues, Seattle Sound, Stadium Solo, and Woodstock Fuzz. Different pedals can also be added and, in classic Apple style, a 3D recreation of your custom rig can be shown on screen.

The second additional feature is “Magic GarageBand Jam,” letting you play along with a virtual band that you create. You can change the sound of each instrument in the band, arrange each part individually and then, when you’re happy with how the band sounds, jam along with your own instrument. This would appear to be an excellent way of moving away from simply recording a track through GarageBand, toward using it as a recreational and ‘jamming’ tool.

Of course, all the original functionality of GarageBand remains intact. It still provides the renowned functionality for layering tracks, recording, and providing a simple ‘plug and play’ setup process.

Pricing & Availability

iLife ’09 will be available this month for a suggested retail price of $79, and Artist Lessons will be available through the GarageBand Lesson Store for $4.99 each.

iLife ’09 will require Leopard and the GarageBand Artist Lessons will only be available in select countries.

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